September 11, 2001
Paula Baker and Jerome Leclerc: When we heard of the attacks,
From Oklahoma to Lorraine
A representative of the American World War II Orphans Network, Inc., visited Armaucourt yesterday, following in the footsteps
of her father who died in World War II... very symbolic.
A little 65-year-old lady from Oklahoma City in the U.S.A. strolled down the streets of Armaucourt alone yesterday morning.
A chilly wind swept the first dead leaves. The village of 200 souls northeast of Nancy seemed deserted. But turning by the church,
Paula Baker noticed a group of about 50 people. They included combat veterans, inhabitants of the commune, and members of the
association Espace de Memoire Lorraine 39-44. The American flag covered a plaque placed on the side of the church. Paula Baker
did not know that the ceremony was intended for her. Flag-bearers were standing on both sides.
"I was eight years old" -- she pronounced it "ite" -- "when my mother received a telegram announcing the death of my father.
It was in 1944. There was the name of Armaucourt and nothing else. The name remained engraved in my heart. From the time I was
very small, I swore I would come here one day.
we were speechless for a long time in the car, listening to the radio.
"I have an unbelievable sense of communion in being here. Most war orphans wish to come themselves to the places where their
fathers were killed. They cannot always do it. There is daily life, work, barriers of language and distance. I barely knew my
father. He was 31 years old."
"That man from the heart of America gave his life to liberate Lorraine," emphasized the mayor of Armaucourt, also expressing
his solidarity with the families of victims of the New York City attacks.
Paula Baker was already in France when the kamikazes went into action. She was coming out of the Peace Memorial at Verdun with
Jerome Leclerc, a member of the association Espace de Memoire Lorraine 1939-45.
"We were speechless for a long time in the car ... listening to the radio," she said.
Unveiling the plaque dedicated to her father and to the men of the 35th Division "who gave their lives for our liberty," as the
plaque said evidently touched her deeply. Paula Baker leaned against the shoulder of Jerome Leclerc.
There was a moment of weakness ... "I thank you with all my heart"... The emotion was stronger than words.
MANY WILL COME NEXT YEAR
A member of the American World War II Orphans Network, Paula Baker is determined to facilitate her compatriots' trips to the Lorraine.
Therefore, she contacted the Espace Memoire Lorraine 39-45, created 18 months ago.
"To serve as an intermediary for the Americans who wish to come to Lorraine," Jerome Leclerc specified. "You should know that there
were more dead here than in Normandy...17,844 American soldiers died in Lorraine, 16,293 in Normandy.
"Long Live France, Long Live the United States, Long Live those who wish to struggle for peace," Paula Baker declared at the ceremony
which unveiled the plaque dedicated to her father.
With the support of members of the association of Espace de Memoire Lorraine 39-45, the daughter of Soldier Evans is hoping to establish
an itinerary which could assist Americans who come to Lorraine to visit battle sites...with physical and human assistance in the area.
"Many of us lost their fathers in Lorraine. Many plan to come next year. I have found the people welcoming and I am certain they will
have a formidable welcome," Paula Baker concluded. She has also contacted the regional and general council.
TRIBUTE TO THE AMERICANS WHO FELL IN LORRAINE
The American soldiers killed in 1944 in Lorraine were more numerous than those fallen in Normandy. Paula Baker, following the footsteps
of her father killed at Armaucourt, yesterday unveiled a plaque of tribute to the combattants of the 35th Division. The ceremony evidently
was deeply moving.